A rough estimate for the 21,000 to 30,000 square foot structure envisioned by fair board members and commissioners is $2 million to $3 million.
The complex of buildings it would replace — including the now-demolished large exhibit hall, the aging small exhibit hall and the needlework hall — totaled about 17,500 square feet.
As described in preliminary discussions, the new facility would have a large space that could be sectioned off into smaller parts, with conference areas and bathrooms and showers that could be accessed by campers on the grounds.
While it’s technically not a convention center, “there will literally be conventions here, in the end,” predicted Fair Director Jennifer Lohrenz at a Nov. 1 meeting. Commissioner Loren Grosskopf noted there are no such facilities in Powell currently.
“This building isn’t just for the fair, at all,” he said, adding, “It can’t be understated about how valuable the building is for the use of the community.”
In addition to the Park County Fair, parts of the grounds are used more than 250 days of the year, Lohrenz said.
Lohrenz said there is state grant money available to put in a large commercial kitchen if it’s rented to small businesses as a test kitchen for products — like someone experimenting with a new kind of salsa, for example.
Brown said money is also available for “green” — that is, energy efficient — projects.
While supporting energy efficiency, Commissioner Bucky Hall advised against seeking LEED certification. Hall said the new Yellowstone Regional Airport terminal in Cody met the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design’s lowest level of certification “and it was pretty close to a total waste of money.”
Expensive energy-efficient items that won’t pay for themselves with savings in three or four generations “don’t make sense,” agreed Austin Allen, a Groathouse Construction employee.
At the request of the committee that’s worked on the plans for the new building, Groathouse staffers have volunteered their time and expertise to help the county sketch out a rough vision for the building, working to get the project to the point where it can be pitched for grants.
None of the documents the Groathouse workers produce will have the company’s logo.
“We’re doing this as members of the community, not as employees of Groathouse,” Allen said.
By participating, he said Groathouse hopes to help come up with a project that can meet the county’s needs and wishes while staying within budget — no matter who ends up building it. The goal is to bridge the gap between what’s envisioned and what’s built, which “is always one of the most frustrating parts of construction management,” Allen said.
“This kind of community service that you’re providing is really appreciated, and of course everybody realizes there’s no string attached,” said Commissioner Dave Burke.
Another one of Brown’s grant suggestions was to look at constructing the building in phases.
“When you can show the organization that you’re asking for a lot of money from that we’ve got a plan here, and we’re not going to be greedy,” you can ask for grant priority on the next phase, she said.
Multiple grants also can be combined.
“This could be five different grants that do all of those things, sort of working together,” she added.
Brown said the county could look into getting grant funding aimed at historic preservation-type work, that could restore the old buildings (see related story), but commissioners and fair board members passed on that idea.
“I don’t think there’s much of a drive to keep those old buildings,” said Burke.
Commissioners also indicated that, although it’s been suggested to them, they are not interested in funding the project with a 1-cent capital facilities tax. Such a proposal, under preliminary discussions, would include building a new indoor equestrian center in Cody.
Commissioner Tim French is opposed to proposing such a tax to voters, saying on KODI this month that he thinks “it’d go down to defeat in a big way” and Hall, though willing to put a tax to voters, said he thinks “it’d be a waste of time to put it on the ballot.”
Conversely, as for the county’s fair project, Burke said at the Nov. 1 meeting that the overall impression he’s gotten from people is “very favorable,” particularly in Powell.
“This is a Park County Fair, (but) the Powell community takes a lot of ownership in the Park County Fair,” Burke said.